Make more and consume less. This, for us, is one of the most alluring aspects of homesteading and a life of voluntary simplicity. From gardening, canning, sewing, animal husbandry, home brewing, bread making and more, we relish learning the skills that bring us closer to self-reliance and walking more lightly on the earth. As we continue to build our skills and knowledge, we recognize that we can’t learn it all nor can we do it all; that’s where a community of makers comes in. This community possesses talents and capabilities that extend far beyond what we could ever dream to master ourselves. Craftsmen, artists and teachers; weavers, woodworkers, pottery makers, knitters and so many others: THANK YOU for spurring innovations that improve our quality of life and for creating beautifully crafted objects and experiences that make our lives more enjoyable.
An antler basket made by Mary Carty. The materials include foraged deer antler for the handle, rattan reed for the ribs and sea grass cordage for the weaving.
One of our goals this year is to engage with more makers and share their talents and skills here. Makers working to preserve traditional skills; makers harnessing their creativity to make a living for themselves; makers making for the sheer joy and satisfaction of creating. Makers like Mary and Steven Carty, a mother and son duo carrying on their Lenape heritage through the traditional skill of foraging and the art of basketry.
Mary among the shelves of her weaving studio at the Pinelands Folk Music & Basketry Center.
The Carty family owns and operates the Pinelands Folk Music & Basketry Center which contains a small shop that sells folk music instruments, handmade goods including baskets woven by Mary and Steven, and a weaving studio fully stocked with materials for basket making.
Steven R. Carty demonstrates how he creates the framework for his antler baskets.
Sourcing for these materials range from wholesale suppliers to individual cottage industries to foraged materials from public and private lands nearby. Steven does a lot of the latter. He is an avid bushcrafter, stealth hiker, camper and forager. A past student of Doug Elliott, Steven’s knowledge of foraging stretches from fibers for basket weaving to herbal remedies and medicinal preparations. He forages in areas where the material to be collected and harvested is available in abundance, then helps nature along to regenerate by casting the native seeds he finds in and around those areas. A few of the foraged materials they use for their weavings include pine needles, tree bark, driftwood and even shed antlers.
To make cordage, twist two opposing stretches of fibers against one another. Here, Steven is twisting ribbons of the inner bark of paper mulberry.
Some of the knowledge Steven imparted about natural materials and fibers include the following:
- Basswood bark, paper mulberry bark, mature nettle stems, and dogbane can be used for cordage
- When using basswood for cordage the bark needs to break down in water for several days and the mid layer of this bark is the best section of material to use
- River driftwood is preferable to ocean driftwood for using as the handles of a basket because the salt seems to compromise the integrity of the wood in ocean driftwood
- When a pine tree dies under the right conditions, the resin retreats into the tree and becomes fatwood instead of rotting; fatwood makes excellent fire-starter
“I had learned from my mother how to make the basic ribbed basket, woven around an antler to form the handle. Then I started developing my own style of basket, replacing the antler with driftwood and using sea grass cordage for the weaving. The resulting work of art looked as though the dunes themselves had woven them.” –S.R.C.
Mary storytelling as she puts the finishing touches around the rim of a gourd basket. On the gourd she’s used a wood burning tool to etch the Mark Twain quote, “Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile.”
Basket made by Mary of locally foraged longleaf pine needles. Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) got its common name for having the longest leaves/needles of the eastern pine species. The tree from which these needles were sourced may be the northernmost longleaf pine and the only one growing in Steven and Mary’s part of the northeast. Steven has plans to venture southward to bring a second longleaf pine from its southern native range up to his native New Jersey so that longleaf pine needles will continue to be available for future generations of weavers in his local community.
Coiled pine needle baskets.
The knowledge and wisdom that these two basket makers possess are the result of years of experience in fostering their craft. They create baskets that are in themselves works of art and unique decorative pieces for a home. Not only this, they also teach the skill and art of basketry which equips others with the abilities to create, develop and contribute to the evolution of the craft. In these ways they share their ancestral connection to the tradition of weaving with the rest of us. What they’ve received they have carried and are passing on for others to carry forward. How very fitting, as baskets are made for carrying things with.
Mother and son, Mary and Steven R. Carty outside the Pinelands Folk Music & Basketry Center.